The Victorian state government has cleared the AFL to host up to 50,000 fans at the MCG in round one of the 2021 AFL season, the largest sporting crowd seen in Australia since March last year.
With the state now on top of the recent coronavirus outbreak which sparked a five-day lockdown earlier in February, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan thanked state premier Daniel Andrews for allowing fans to come back in such large numbers.
The round one match between Richmond and Carlton on March 18 will boast the largest sporting crowd seen in Victoria since before Australia was initially sent into lockdown in March last year.
The 50,000 strong gathering will be the biggest since women's Twenty20 World Cup final which took place days before the worsening pandemic forced most of Australia into their homes for months.
McLachlan said a power of work had gone into the arrangements.
"Footy fans in Victoria have been excited about getting back to matches and we have seen that with great numbers across the opening rounds of the AFLW season," McLachlan said.
"We haven't had footy crowds this big in Victoria since the match to support bushfire relief in February last year, so this announcement provides a big boost for our players and fans.
"Our team has been working extensively behind the scenes planning for multiple scenarios and all our venues will be ready to welcome fans back into the stands come next month."
Meanwhile, the premier announced Melbourne's Marvel Stadium will be permitted to have crowds up for 50 per cent capacity, or 28,961 patrons, beginning from this Thursday with St Kilda's preseason game against Geelong.
An announcement on Geelong's GMHBA Stadium is coming in the next few days, as well as details on ticket purchasing.
"This is great news as the AFL season is obviously starting quite soon and it will be something approaching normal, which is something Victorians have absolutely earned," Andrews said.
Rory Sloane to again lead battling Crows
Veteran midfielder Rory Sloane has been confirmed as Adelaide's AFL captain as the Crows attempt to rebound from their first wooden spoon.
The 30-year-old will lead Adelaide for the third year in a row after being unanimously endorsed by his teammates.
It will be Sloane's second season as sole skipper after sharing co-captaincy duties with Taylor Walker in 2019.
Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks said the Crows were buoyed by entering the 2021 campaign with no changes to their leadership group.
"Rory typifies what we are about - selflessness, team-first, he is ruthlessly competitive and all about performing at the highest level and making others around him better," Nicks said.
"He has been a fantastic captain for us the past two years and we are excited about him continuing in the role this season.
"The fact that there have been no changes to the leadership group for 2021 reinforces our belief that the five players did an outstanding job in what was a very challenging year in 2020."
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